“SEEDS OF THE KINGDOM”
[The Kingdom of Heaven]
is like a mustard seed,
which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.
Yet when planted, it grows and becomes
the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches
that the birds of the air can perch in its shade."
Go back in time and try to hear these words in their original context.
Imagine you are sitting listening to the teacher Jesus talking
with his followers on a hillside outside Capernaum or wherever.
You are intrigued by his words - but this man claims so much -
he talks about the fulfilment of his teaching in the coming rule of God.
And you say to yourself - maybe you even say to him -
· Have you not seen the Roman army on the march?
he not seen the libraries
and debating chambers of the Greek philosophers?
you not seen the vested interests
of the Temple & of Herod?
And here is this man with a few dozen
North country fishermen and hangers on
talking about the rule of God.
Come on Jesus, you have some good ideas -
but bring in a Kingdom?
You and whose army?
The again, go on a few years, and imagine yourself in Rome.
The date is around AD70,
and you are part of the small Christian community in hiding.
In hiding because for 4 years the young Church
has endured brutal persecution under Nero -
the Christians playing the role so often played
by foreigners and outsiders throughout history -
a convenient group to blame when things go wrong
and the Government needs a scapegoat.
You are listening as someone reads from the brand new Gospel of Mark -
You could be forgiven for thinking that
the great words about the coming Kingdom of Christ
seemed a bit at odds with the hole in the corner existence
of his beleaguered followers in the city.
But then you hear the words of the Gospel -
The Kingdom of Heaven, says Jesus, “is like a mustard seed,
which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.
Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants,
with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade."
In other words - Look at a mustard seed, says Jesus -
you need 750 to weigh one gram - next to nothing -
but look what it grows to - in one season it is ten foot tall!
In other words - Trust in the Lord.
God will accomplish great results from small,
and (looking at the membership of the early Church)
frankly unpromising beginnings.
But let me ask you a question -
have you ever wondered why Jesus chose a mustard bush?
Why did he not speak about a great tree?
Our OT passage talks about the victory of God’s rule
in terms of a great cedar of Lebanon, 100 feet tall,
a majestic symbol of God’s coming Kingdom.
Yet Jesus replaces this traditional OT image of a
great towering tree
with the image of a mustard bush -
yes, a fast growing and large shrub, which grows to 10 feet tall in a season -
but an annual plant, which needs to be reseeded each year.
Maybe we need to hold both images in our mind
the fast growing mustard bush of Mark’s Gospel
and the mighty cedar of Ezekiel’s prophecy.
In the garden
at Killerton there is a fine Californian redwood
brought as a sapling in the 19th century and now -
if my memory serves me correctly - a 100’ or so tall.
I guess everyone could have stood around for a hundred years
waiting for it to grow.
Thankfully they got on with cultivating the rest of garden -
planning the perennial shrubs,
and each year planting out the annual bedding plants
At the end of time
the great redwoods, the sequoia, the cedars of Lebanon,
all will be as nothing compared with the ultimate majesty of God’s rule -
and we need to live our lives today knowing that that day will come.
But that day is not
here yet -
We live in the in between times -
we see still in a mirror dimly -
we see but the first fruits of the Kingdom of Heaven
dimly reflected in the Church and the world -
and we are called to be gardeners sowing, planting, watering
the seed which God has given us.
We may be growing mustard bushes not cedars -
but don’t underestimate how they can grow!!
So a few practical messages for mustard growing Church:
need to look with God’s eyes
and see the seeds of the Kingdom
planted often in the most unlikely places
and in the most unlikely lives.
It is easy to look at the world and see the world
with the mentality of the newspaper headlines -
always going for the doom and gloom -
There is plenty of that, and we need to see it for what it is,
but we also need to see the seeds of hope,
the small plants of love and peace and justice,
and recognize them and nurture them
We need to expect great things.
When you talk to
someone about the Gospel, remember -
it is not just your words that carry the burden of the conversation -
it is the seed of the Gospel you are planting in that person’s heart -
and who knows how that seed may not grow and flourish?
Tomorrow we start
building work on the Church -
already we need to be thinking about the work
we will do in our new building -
its like a we are market gardeners
and we’ve just built a brand new greenhouse -
Heaven forbid we just sit and admire the architecture
and the quality of the glazing -
we know, or we should know,
that we can use it to nurture many news seedlings,
grow on thousands of plants -
and who knows -
for we have good seed -
how they may grow?!
are called to nurture not destroy life
We had great fun at the Safari Supper last night with the Wild West theme -
Good for a laugh - but of course riding into town with six shooters blazing
has its limitations as a theological image -
At the risk of being too serious about a fun evening,
God’s cowboys are called to care for the herd, not shoot the Indians
need to recognize that there will be times when things better,
times when they seem to go worse -
we are growing mustard bushes not cedars right now -
there may be reverses - as winter follows summer.
will be times when the way of discipleship
seems all about vulnerability and disappointment -
but that is part of being the Church,
part of treading the way of the cross-
What matters is not
that our every endeavour
is an unqualified success in worldly terms
· What matters is that we keep on sowing the seed,
What matters is that
the seed is good,
and that there is always an abundance to sow if we will be sow it.
may not live in the Kingdom of Heaven yet -
but we need to sow the seeds of the Kingdom.
Thank God for Methodist Homes -
one day we will all be called home
to God’s glorious mansions in the City of God -
but till that day we build homes of love and care here below -
seeds of the Kingdom.
And for “Methodist Homes” which we support today,
read “every organization and campaign for justice
and a fuller and more enriching life” -
this is where we need to be .
Sometimes the image changes
and we become the seed which Christ would sow -
1800 years ago Tertullian
wrote the famous words
“the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,”
And in recent history
opposing the fascist dictators of El Salvador wrote
“It is my hope that my blood will be the seed of freedom
and the sign that hope will soon be a reality”
things turn against you,
when the Gospel seems a very frail defence
against death and sin and doubt and the powers that be in the world -
trust in God and his power.
Where are the Armies of Rome now?
The Church is an anvil which has worn out many hammers.
“Sects and ideologies almost always seem
stronger than the Church.
Sects and ideologies fly; the church limps.
Sects and ideologies die; the Church limps on.
Stick with the Church”
(FD Bruner, “Matthew” Eerdmans 1990, vol 2 p.35)
let’s give our lives, our faith, our seedtime
and pray that our harvest on earth may be the firstfruits
of the assured great Harvest home of heaven to come
Order of Service
Lord, have mercy!
Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.
qui tollis peccata
ad dexteram Patris,
solus sanctus, tu solus Dominus, tu solus altissimus:
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise You, we bless You,
O Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son, O Lord God
who takes away the sins of the world give ear to our prayer;
who sits at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
For You alone are holy, You alone are the Lord, You alone are high above all: Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Ministry of the Word
Readings: Ezekiel 17:22-24 (p.844) and Mark 4:26-32 (p.1006)
Introducing Methodist Homes - Dorothy Worthington
Hymn 552 “Lord of all hopefulness”
Sermon: “Seeds of the Kingdom”
Credo in unum
Et in unum Dominum
Qui propter nos homines
est de Spiritu Sancto
Et iterum venturus
Et in Spiritum sanctum Dominum, et vivificantem:
Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam.
Confiteor unum baptisma
I believe in one God,
And in one Lord,
Who for us men
And was incarnate by the
And the third day He rose
And He shall come again
And (I believe in) the
And in one holy catholic
I acknowledge one baptism
Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum,
et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen.
And I look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen
Prayers of Intercession and Lord’s Prayer
Hymn 807 “What shall I offer”
(During this hymn, the collection is taken & offerings brought forward)
The Lord’s Supper
The peace of the Lord be always with you
And also with you.
[We offer one another a handshake or other sign of peace]
[The congregation stands]
Lift up your hearts
We lift them to the Lord
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
It is right to give our thanks and praise
In creation, you planted the seeds of your imagination.
Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Holy, holy, holy,
[The congregation sits]
Benedictus qui venit in nomine
[The congregation stands]
the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread,
Dying, you destroyed our death. Rising, you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.
Spirit of God, move over these signs of life and celebration, this bread and
wine, that we may take them
Come, risen Lord, live in us that we may live in you.
Look, the Body of Christ is broken for the life of the world.
[Young Church members join us from their sessions]
During which the choir will sing the Agnus Dei:
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.
[Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world Have mercy on us
Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world Give us peace]
We thank you, Lord, that you have fed us in this sacrament, united us with Christ, and given us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet prepared for all people. Amen.
“Glorious things of thee are spoken”
(Tune “Austria” by Joseph Haydn)
[The great Prayer of Thanksgiving is based loosely on a liturgy
© 2009 Thom M. Shuman (http://lectionaryliturgies.blogspot.com)]